By Gabrielle. The photo is me and my mother.
My mom sent me a sweet note the other day. She was in a reflective mood and was missing the days when she had a house full of 8 kids. I asked her if I could share some of her email, and she said yes. I should warn you, I think some people will feel a wave a guilt as you read this, and if you do, please try and discard that guilt and come discuss with me at the end.
Here’s a section of what my mom wrote:
“I believe, when the day comes and you are forced to lead a simpler life, that you will be pleased that you spent time with your children when you had the chance. I MISS my children SO MUCH.
One afternoon in Morningside [our neighborhood] I wanted to get outside and called out, “I’m going for a walk. Anyone want to come?” To my surprise, everyone did. No one got to be with me enough, I guess. Maybe it was too much of a good thing for me. The kids were always there and the responsibility morning-noon-and-night, so it was easy to take our time for granted.
I wasn’t an absent mother. I noticed things. Kept track. I tried to listen when someone needed to talk, but the polite ones didn’t want to intrude on my time. Although nothing mattered to me more than my family, I had other things on my mind, too. Sometimes intruding things. I took on the PTA Presidency at the High School one year — so I could contribute or whatever. Ironically, a waste of precious time.
Why wasn’t my role as mother-of-eight enough for me to enjoy, to savor? I couldn’t have smiled in their faces enough. Touched them. Sat too close. Rubbed backs enough. Listened to and admired the [music] practicing. I don’t mean I have enormous regret, but “wonderful hindsight” is revealing.
As far as the future, I’m AMAZED at how much more healthy, productive, interesting time is ahead for a woman, after children. It’s been a major surprise to me.”
As I read my mom’s note, it’s no surprise my first instinct was to gather my kids around me, hug them, compliment them, listen to them. But my second instinct was to sort of sigh and resign myself to the idea that maybe there’s no avoiding what my mother is feeling right now.
It got me thinking of advice we’ve all received that sounds wonderful but is kind of impossible to follow. Things like “sleep when the baby sleeps”. I mean, I bet I managed to follow that advice maybe 5 times total in the course of my baby-parenting years. Though I could see how helpful it was in theory, it simply wasn’t advice that worked for me.
Similar to my mom’s note, another piece of general advice that’s often handed out is to “cherish every little moment when your kids are young because they grow up so fast”. I’ve said this myself. To myself. I know it’s true. But again, it’s kind of impossible to follow when you’re actually parenting the little ones. It seems like the only way to make it happen would be to become a person who has endless energy and never tires of small humans and never needs time for herself. (And of course, that person doesn’t exist.)
My mom didn’t send the note to give me guilt, she was just missing her kids and telling me about it. We chatted about it and laughed because I said, “I don’t think a person can ever get to a point where they say, yep, I’ve hugged my children enough. Check that off the list.” Hah!
So my question to you is: Can it be done? Are there people out there who have raised their kids and look back and don’t miss those days? Or don’t wonder about how they spent their time? Should they have trained for that marathon? Should they have taken on that extra assignment at church? Should they have skipped that weekend reunion with their college friends? Are you that person? No regrets? Not even little ones?
What’s your take? When you hear advice about appreciating every moment with your kids, how do you react? As for me, I don’t mind the advice. I hear it and I think about my awesome kids, and my awesome life, and feel loads of gratitude. And then I say to myself that if I’m going to miss my kids in the future (and I’m sure I am), so be it, but I can’t see a way to prevent that, so I’m not going to worry about it now.
How about you?
Also, any thoughts on the last sentences I shared from my mom’s note? About the productive, interesting time after the children’s are raised? Sounds delightful to me!
52 thoughts on “No Regrets. Can it Be Done?”
I think her closing sentiment is good to know as a younger woman in life with young kids who feels like she has to do it all NOW and struggles for the elusive “balance”. Though I think there is a level of maintenance that has to be upkept along the way to have that “healthy, productive, interesting time”.
What would we do without Moms’ wisdom?
“I think there is a level of maintenance that has to be upkept along the way to have that “healthy, productive, interesting time””
That is such a wise observation. It doesn’t feel like women can just step out of a career and step back in as needed. It seems like it works best if they can keep a connection to their work the whole time. But that’s not always realistic.
Thanks for sharing! I wonder, do you ever feel the same way about time with your mother? Today is my mom’s birthday, and I just flew back from spending the weekend with her… her “big” birthday was last year, but somehow the stars aligned and the three of us were all able to fly in to celebrate with her again this year. I don’t yet have children, but I became sort of weirdly nostalgic over the weekend over her parenting me. Do I regret being a bratty kid in the way she may have regretted lost time? Are we both doing ourselves a disservice in lamenting the past? Do we both shrug at that and happily look to the future? I’m not sure I know the answers, but I do know that I never regret those 48-hour trips to visit. They are pure soul food!
What a lovely comment, Sarah! I love reading that your trips to visit your mother are “pure soul food”.
For many people, trips home to visit parents are layered with guilt and criticism (either perceived or real), so it’s wonderful to read that for you, visits are sustaining.
I just wanted to thank you, Gabrielle, for your acknowledgement that Mother’s Day can be a difficult day for some of us! I like “sitting in” on the motherhood-related topics, but I don’t think I knew how much it would mean to me for someone to say that it’s ok for Mother’s Day to be difficult. So, thanks! Big hugs and high fives to all of us, mothers and others – we’re all doing a great job.
Yes. Mothere’s Day can be rough. High-fives indeed!
Time, like the tide, ebbs and flows. We can’t be what we don’t know to be and we don’t have the gift of hindsight in the present. I don’t feel guilty about being a working mom, though I do sometimes wish I could spend more time with my kids. Will I regret it in 20 years? Who knows? But I won’t be able to change the past so I just do the best I can (like most of us do.)
I’ll be 60(!!!) when my last child finishes high school. Having my children in my 40s is a different perspective; I already lived so many seasons of my life unmarried, childless…I didn’t expect to start middle age with babies. It’s made me a lot more laissez-faire about life. Maybe it’s a gift that my vision has started to fail as I became a mom. A little blurring around the edges is good for everyone.
I have my kids in my mid-thirties, which means my 20s were all for playing and living my life for ME. I wouldn’t change anything! I kissed a lot of frogs, and spent many years bouncing around, having fun. Now settling in, being home and being a (working) mom feels just about perfect.
Also, my mom returned to work (in the 70s) shortly after my sister and I were both born – she “fought” to work, not all women did in her time. I appreciate the fact that I can have my own work life AND a family life, it actually makes me feel balanced (even when the two collide!).
Ha I love this! I should preface I asked my mom this same question…shes in her mid 60’s raised 5 kids…was a stay at home ( but worked from home mom) and did lots of things for herself…she was a fitness nut. Anyway I asked her if she liked being an empty nester or missed having littles. LOL biggest laugh yet! She said NOPE I love my age, my stage of life, I love everything about the freedom being old as I am…dont miss raising kids. Been there done it. Loves being a grandma but doesnt live or die by it either. She lives her life with contentment on the life shes living now. Now that was shocking…but wise. I need to be content with what I am doing now, doing the best I can to savor it, but know clocks dont rewind and to enjoy each day and each stage to the fullest!
I don’t want to be like that. My mil still pines for the kid days…I want to be traveling the world. I guess my takeaway from this, is enjoy the young stage as much as you can, and make the most if it. I love my kids with all my heart, and I have close relationships with all three of them. No matter how old they get, that relationship will endure, and that’s nothing time can change. I adore them.
This was good to read. I feel like I am somehow stuck in both worlds of ‘ready for my daughter to grow up’ and ‘please stay this little forever.’ Since we have made the decision to just have 1, I am trying to intentionally enjoy these days as much as I’m able (and when I remember to). Some days, I feel both wistful and relieved to know that I’ll only be dealing with certain issues once. But I do wonder a lot of we made the right decision.
I am a young mom and often women tell me, “enjoy it, cause soon…” While their intentions are good, it’s a confusing sentiment for me. I certainly am enjoying it, but does it get worse? Or just different? And while I am loving this season of life, there are hard parts too. I think the hard parts are the first things to escape our memories. We remember the beautiful moments but don’t remember the glossy, fatigued, tired eyes we once saw them through.
The letter from your mother is beautiful, and it reminded me of this quote: “Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.” -Debra Ginsberg
Parenthood creates a beautiful find of pain–it requires such a deep emotional experience of simultaneous joy and loss. To celebrate a child’s first steps, you also mourn the dependency they no longer have when they were immobile. Contradictory emotions existing together is the “pain,” the heart beating outside of its chest.
That quote is perfect. Thank you for sharing it.
The intensity of emotion I have experienced while raising my 6 children has been the greatest surprise to me regarding motherhood. I love how Debra Ginsberg’s quote captured that.
Just wondering: Do women who have not had children experience less of that deep simultaneous tension of joy and loss. Are they more insulated? Or is it just transferred to other areas/people in their lives?
I don’t have children, and I definitely think life doesn’t have the extreme joy or pain (or guilt) that parents have. It can be boring, even. I’m a fairly sensitive person, so knowing how much potential pain there is a major reason I don’t have children, but we’ll see. Until then, there’s dogs to give me joy. :P
I should also mention that even without kids, there are times of my life i miss. Mid to late 20s were a loooot of fun! Then again, I think the only reason that carefree time ended is because friends went and had kids, haha! Just kidding – things just aren’t as “fun” and “new” as you get older, so even that wouldn’t be fun to do over again at this point in my life.
Love your mom’s sharing and all the comments as well. After working full-time as a therapist pre-kids, I was able to have my own private practice out of my home until they were in middle school (when I returned to full-time work). So I did juggle it all and loved being a mom as well as having a career. Now I have five grandbabies under six and see three of them most weeks for a day (at their house) and the other two every other month for a few days at a time. I love being a grandmother but also cherish my early retirement (age 50, now 10 years later), time with my husband, a house that is always just-so (unless the kids are visiting), a large garden, being a docent, getting together with friends. It is delightful to have littles in my life but also to have enormous freedom and endless amounts of time. I love waking up every morning wondering what do I feel like doing today?
Beautiful post! I feel this every day as a mom to 6. It’s exciting and heartbreaking watching them grow more and more independent. Sometimes the hardest part of mothering is being truly present, trying not to sweat the small stuff, and allowing yourself to enjoy the moment while you are deep in the trenches.
My three wonderful children are all in their twenties, and I often do miss pieces of our old life together. Sometimes the nostalgia comes in painful waves, like the other day when I passed the high school field and saw all of the baseball players taking their positions. Although it hasn’t hit me that hard in a long time, I almost began to cry. Other days it’s just missing the daily chit chat or even tripping over all of the shoes in the front hall. I try not to have regrets, as I always remind myself that I, like so many mothers, simply did the best I could every single day. And let’s face it, some days I did better than others. I’m often envious of this generation of moms, as you all have an amazing blogging community of support and inspiration. However, I also wonder if occasionally it makes a mom feel inadequate….all of those incredible houses complete with children’s craft rooms not to mention the Pinterest-worthy birthday parties.
The good news is that it IS a sweet time of life. I love knowing that my children are “launched,” and it is a joy to see them coming into their own as adults. My husband and I are closer than ever. In many ways, I feel like we are falling in love all over again. And I finally feel like I have time. Time to read, time to garden, time to work-out, and time to do my job well. There is, indeed, a season for everything.
I love this so much, thanks for sharing your mother’s insights. I think about this a lot because I too am in the middle of life with littles (ages 8, 5, and 2). Already, I have some regrets of how I mothered my oldest and am doing things differently with my littlest because of it. But its not regret that derails me or depresses me. I’m able to have grace for myself because I had no idea what I was doing with my poor oldest child the first time around. And I know I will still have regrets as I move forward because I’ll never be perfect! It motivates me to notice and be grateful, like you said, when I can. I don’t live in or with regret, but I do think its impossible to not miss them when they’re grown. In my opinion, that’s evidence for a world beyond this one: heaven itself. Even the good and beautiful things in this life that we want to hold onto (like raising sweet children) must fade away and can never fulfill us the way we desire.
Maybe it because I am a bit older (?) but I do live by that advice. I DO sleep when the baby sleeps (even my three week old who is #3) and I DO cherish all those moments. I don’t know how much I will miss certain stages, I enjoy each new phase as it comes and am still having babies but I know I won’t regret how much we slowed down life and just enjoyed them.
this is such a wonderful post, and one currently very close to my heart. i recently turned down a job offer because the position would require a lot of time beyond regular office hours, and i just could not give up that time with my child. while i work mon – fri, i love being home on time for dinner, and even a walk or quick trip to the park. it was so so hard to turn down a job that would have been a step up, but i knew it my heart it was the right choice. when i called to give them my decision, the call ended with the woman on the other line saying “not only is your current organization lucky to have you, but your child is very lucky. you have great things in your future. have more kids.” (great, now i’m tearing up at my desk again)
What a marvelous response from the lady on the other end of the line. Compassion! Positively! Support! Encouragement! Perfection. Your company and your family are lucky indeed and hooray for your employer! Humanity gone right!
Regrets – I have a couple, not about how much time I spent with my son, but how I handled certain situations. I was conscious of trying to appreciate the different stages of his childhood, but daily life sometimes makes that difficult! Hugs and love were always in abundance. Looking back can be nostalgic, but I love knowing my adult son, seeing him with his wife and daughter and dealing with life’s good and bad. And now I have my granddaughter to spend time with – with much more free time and patience.
It’s SUCH a challenge (as a woman, mother, and person) to be at peace with where we are in life and the decisions we make. I remind myself that the only thing we can change is our present, and we have to accept the past as part of what makes us who we are and what we know today.
We have the choice to change how we spend our time, each and every day. That’s a big reason why I moved back to my hometown: to be able to spend more time with my family and to raise my own kids in close proximity to one set of grandparents and near a lot of extended family.
This is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your mom’s note to us. It’s a little reflective considering the time spent with children. I guess we just really need to use our time wisely. Prioritize our family and spend most of our time with them.
I also want to thank you for being an inspiration for mothers. And as a thank you, you have been featured in our blog as one of the most inspiring Moms to follow on Social Media! Check it out and share: http://goo.gl/70EHjK Advance Happy Mother’s day!
The thing I’ve got stuck in my craw lately is this idea I see of “living your dream”. Like going to work and raising my kids and spending time just doing nothing but enjoying our normal little life is somehow inferior to flying all over the planet or jumping out of a plane or something.
The note from your mom felt nicely validating of the commitment I’ve made to living my normal little life.
I’m going to be 54 or 55ish when my youngest moves out. Hopefully that will give me decades to pursue what I want as an older adult. AND i got 10 years in my 20’s to be a single adult. Reminds me of the old saying. You can have it all; just not all at the same time. Right now I’m going to enjoy spending my weekends at the little league field and my evenings reading Harry Potter aloud hoping there are years of wine tasting on the weekends and movie going in the evenings ahead.
I have 2 teenage boys: 14 and 15. Their dad and I were divorced when they were 1.5 and 2.5 and it was very hard emotionally and financially. I’ve never had the opportunity to stay at home with them. Last year some time, I had woken early in the morning and I was laying there not wanting to get up and I started to think back when they were young. How sweet they were. Their little hands, their sweet kisses, giggles and snuggles. They wanted nothing else but to love you. At that time, I always said, “I’m not going to miss this” – there constant needs… we used to sit on the couch together, one in my knee bend and one next to my chest – but there I was missing that sweet time. I’m trying to embrace this teenage time but it isn’t as sweet as the little kid age but I know I’m going to look back in another 10 years and say I miss those stinky teenage boys. I’m prepared for them to move away like I did from my parents but I hope they won’t move too far. :)
“So my question to you is: Can it be done? Are there people out there who have raised their kids and look back and don’t miss those days? Or don’t wonder about how they spent their time?”
I don’t think it’s possible. I don’t think what we’re talking about here is regret so much as the melancholy we inevitably feel about the passing of time and the loss that’s inseparable from being mortal. Every beautiful thing dies or ends, and of course we feel sadness about it. In my opinion, to be without that sense of loss and regret wouldn’t show you’d done everything perfectly; it would show you’re less than a full human being or that you just aren’t paying attention.
I think if you like your kids you’re going to miss them. My mom spent a lot of time with us and she’ll still tell us how she misses us being at home. It’s bittersweet, right?
Like, you raise wonderful, independent people who you love being around and then they’re not around. No matter how you do it, whether you work or stay home, whether you cuddle them every night or you get home only to find them already asleep, that end of an era is imminent. At some point, almost every child is going to leave your home. The fact that you miss them probably means you made a great thing.
My question is: How do you set yourself up to have a fulfilling life after the kids leave? What does that life look like?
You are speaking my language! I read a quote a couple weeks ago that was something along the lines of “is there anything left of me that isn’t centered on mothering?” I stay at home with my 4 year old and almost one year old and plan to for a while yet. I love this life and wouldn’t change, but the thought of someday shifting gears from “I haven’t completed a conversation in X years” to “you’re hired, now go be in charge of adult-y stuff” is daunting. So, I’m getting myself back to my book club on Wednesday after a year away. Baby steps to help me navigate all this growth. :-)
Your take on missing the fabulous people we raise is wonderful, and you are right, bittersweet. My kids are genuinely two of my favorite people and I look forward to seeing them grow into themselves. The thought of not having them in my house someday just seems…quiet and boring.
I can understand your Mum’so sentiments as I have chosen to live a simpler life due to death of my husband two years ago. I have three boys between the ages of 9 and 12 and though I tried to do it all for a while I felt I wasn’t very good either at home or at work. When one of my son’s needed extra help I chose to take a career break. It has been lovely to just concentrate on myself and my children for a while. I don’t see this as forever but just for now and will look forward to returning to work more one day. I am very lucky to have this opportunity. I am acutely aware now that our time may be limited so I want to spend it the way it is most meaningful for my family and myself. Though on bad days I agree with Amanda wanting to cherish this stage whilst also wanting them to grow up. Trying to live in the present is the best we can do.
I often think about how unaware of parenting I was as a child. I accepted life just as it was. Now that I am a parent, I can understand how hard my parents worked. Even my husband who had a fairly sad childhood, can offer some kudos to his mother who was doing the best she could in a bad situation. Reflection on time gone by is a lovely pastime but nothing you do can change it. Of course parenthood looks different when you have time, less stress, no homework, dinner for 1 or 2 to deal with. I love the rocky road that being a mum leads me on. It makes me real and offers my children the unique experience of being themselves, while I do the best I can with what I have at the time.
I love this picture of you and your mom. Everytime you post it, it makes me so happy. And I just love your blog. I know it made me a better mom, it made me enjoy motherhood more. I always wanted to write that to you, so now I did. Your thoughts and your input is inspiring and comforting and over the years it instilled the certainty in my heart that I can lead this lucky, fulfilling life with the best of two worlds (family and work).
And yes, I feel, I don’t listen enough to my kids or teach them or hug them enough. I am more of a practical person though and so I feel if I don’t miss the really big things (pain or joy), we’re good. But sometimes I already feel the grief of not being there more, even just mentally, you know, all the times that I am there but really I’m not. It is something that I try to practice with everything I am doing: When you are there, be right there, when you do something, do just that.
Thanks for sharing your mom’s thoughts. That was very moving to read. I’m a mom to four kids (15, 17, 19, 23) and for the first time, I’m really starting to feel the effects of my children growing up and not needing me quite as much. I have to admit it’s heartbreaking to me and I feel such sadness and stress about it. Of course, I know our goal as parents (at least my goal anyway) is to raise kids to become independent, successful, kind, and happy adults. And, I’m very proud of the people my kids are growing up to be. Still, as a stay-at-home-mom who devoted pretty much everything 24-7 to my kids, I’m now feeling a little lost and don’t know quite what to do with myself. My husband and I just had a discussion last night about how much easier it was when our kids were little. Yes, it was hectic but most of their problems were easily solved and their needs easily met by us. Now that they are getting older, it’s a fine line between letting them figure things out for themselves and still being there to help or offer advice. Great post — this really spoke to me!
I have 8 kids ages 17 -4 right now with twins #6 & 7– 2 girls and then 6 boys in a row. I loved every moment of their babyhood. I soaked it all in and I had a lot of kids because I LOVED it!! Only now as my oldest will be a senior do I realize how fleeting it all is, and I miss having my 2 little girl dolls to dress up and do their hair. They grew up!! I wanted to feel done though, and the twins did it– it was overwhelming. I had one last one because I didn’t want to end on that note– I love him to death and enjoyed him fully also, but the thought of another was pure terror. I don’t even want to hardly look at babies, I am so glad to be done with that phase. But I can see how fleeting it really was, and there is no way to have no regrets, :) . This is that journey thing called life– if there were no regrets or mistakes, then there would be no learning or growth– and how boring would that be? Thanks for your posts– you truly have a gift!
I think the saddest, biggest lie out there is that if you have children your life is over. They grow up. And even though 18 years away feels like an eternity, you won’t be dead when they leave. I don’t know why I believed that if I didn’t “have it all” BEFORE children, I was never going to. I have six children. I thought they would never grow up. But they do. My first left home last year, my youngest is in school all day now. (I actually found myself lamenting that I was more efficient with my time when I had to work around naps and preschool carpool!) I am still very busy with them, but beginning to actually believe I have a whole new life and world open to me. Not better, just different. Easier in some ways. Harder in others. One that I am SO much better prepared for. It is scary some. It is lonesome some. But it is all good. I kind of feel like I did when I was transitioning into college. Time to be a grown up! Only this time, I’ll know better what I’m doing.
What a lovely letter! I can relate. I’m also loving her statements about life after the kids are raised!
“It seems like the only way to make it happen would be to become a person who has endless energy and never tires of small humans and never needs time for herself. (And of course, that person doesn’t exist.)”
Also, I think it is just impossible for the human brain to stay engaged and amazed by anything while totally immersed in it. For example, when I am on vacation somewhere beautiful, I am always surprised how quickly I can take for granted the spectacular ocean views by the end of the vacation.
Thank you for this post. I have come to the same realization that the “cherish every moment” advice is impossible to follow. This doesn’t just apply to children. It applies to life. We all take life for granted and in retrospect don’t savor the good times enough. I think that is really just life for the most part.
Having said all of that, as a full time working mother, I have accepted the fact that I won’t be physically present for my son as much as a his stay-at-home dad is. I am generally quite settled in that decision. The area I need to work on is being present and engaged with him when I am home. I have a tendency to continue to stew over work when I am home and am really trying to break that habit.
I’d love to hear how you and your readers set aside mental stress, especially the type of stress that comes from a demanding career, to really achieve quality time with their families.
This is such a conundrum for parents–I struggle with it always, but I believe strongly that if we as moms are fulfilled personally, it ensures we can be fully present and able to give to our kids…the old “put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then help your children” advice. I feel torn always but I have seen myself hold back from the endeavors that are important to me and then pay the price because I am feeling deprived emotionally and not as equipped to be the kind of mom I want to be for my boys. I hope that all moms can take care of themselves emotionally and otherwise— even if it means a bit less time with the kids– because when we feel abundant and cared for, we are so much more able to give love and be undistracted and present for our families…. this is a lifelong challenge for me!! Hoping to feel I did the best I could when that day comes, but the loss of childhood is always going to hurt.
Your mother’s letter is PURE GOLD. Her insight is honest and vulnerable and I am happy to have it.
There are so many bits for learning/internalizing/digesting:
1) – “the polite ones didn’t want to intrude on my time”. I must remember to purposefully create and give time – make myself available- even if it’s not asked for. I too have several “polite” children.
2) – “. . . I had other things on my mind too. Ironically, a waste of precious time.” It’s so easy to get distracted from what WILL actually bring deep joy – time spent actively listening and actively interacting/creating together. The other things are intrusions.
3) – “Why wasn’t my role as mother-of-eight enough for me to enjoy, to savor? I couldn’t have smiled in their faces enough.” Yes! Why is it that? Why is it that we sometimes we forget? Why is it that we let frustration/distraction/discontentment slip in?
I had an experience recently that was profoundly eye opening and instructive for me. After 14 years of stay-at-home motherhood with virtually no other demands for my time or attention (necessary or chosen) I was beginning to feel a little resentful and stagnant. My thoughts were beginning to be bitter. I wanted to be involved in something FOR ME – intellectually stimulating, challenging, exciting, etc.
I auditioned for and was cast in the community musical. It demanded somewhere between 2-6 hours a day of my time for 4 months. I had my own agenda! I had to stretch, to push. It was challenging and loved it. I’m so glad I got to be a part of that experience. My husband and kids were 100% loving and supportive. It was a healthy thing for all of us to be a part of.
BUT! It also made it very clear to me how that endeavor affected my physical time and mental and emotional availability for my family. It gave a window into what our life would look like if I had something like that going on routinely. It wouldn’t work for me. I wouldn’t be happy with my motherhood or home life. I would not be able to make it work. I no longer wish I could or want to. My immediate and long term happiness wouldn’t be increased, it would be diminished. (*please note – I personally know lots, and lots of women who make having an agenda outside of the home work well for themselves and their family. I have zero judgement towards the many faces of motherhood and am 100% open to THE TRUTH that there is no one cookie cutter way to do home and family.)
Having that experience has left me so happy to be at home! I feel as though I can continue to put off “having my own agenda” for a long time yet. I feel a renewed sense of being happy with my role as mother-of-four and it being something I enjoy and savor. It’s enough! It was in the beginning, and it is again. Win/win all around.
I believe your mother when she says “as far as the future, I’m AMAZED at how much more healthy, productive, and interesting time is ahead for a woman, after children. It’s been a major surprise to me.”
I am thankful for her wisdom. I believe her. I want to savor this phase. It is fleeting and I will miss it. There is time yet to come for the other things.
Please tell her I believe her and that I hear her.
I think it’s nice for people to remind us every so often to step back and ENJOY our children. It’s so easy to get caught up in the routine and rush! I doubt I’ll have no regrets, but I’m grateful for the reminders to make the best of moments along the way!
Thanks to your mom for sharing her thoughts and to you for sharing them with us! I have been feeling very lonely as a mother – not because I have children that have left. I have been caught up in being immersed in my family and their life and their needs, maybe loosing sight of who I am. Your mothers comments have made me realize I can be many things to many people but Im the only one that can be mom to my children. I needed this reminder and shift of perspective.
You appear to have an awesome mom!
I’m just a few years away from an empty nest. My daughters are 14 and 11, one about to be a freshman in high school and the other starting middle school. I have been a stay at home mother their entire lives.
I find myself going through moments of complete sadness and grief over them growing up, wondering what in the world I will do one day when they’re not here. But then other days, I find myself very proud of who they are becoming and anxious to see them continue on the path to adulthood. And, some days I cannot wait for the them to be ready to fly out of the nest (teen girls can be exasperating)! As with all aspects of motherhood from the very first day, it’s a complete roller coaster. The grief and fear comes in waves, but more often than not lately I find that I’m at peace with what’s happening. No longer do I yearn for the days of babyhood and small kid things like I did a couple of years ago. Where I once was incredibly sad about the days of believing in Santa, watching Dora and eating handfuls of goldfish being over, I now feel sort of a sense of relief that is no longer part of my parental duties. It surprised me how much I’ve become OK with letting go of those days of small childhood. I think it’s because one day I realized that while they are so very precious when they are little, that period of our their lives is so very short compared to the time they are adults. As I told a friend the other day, we will know them as adults longer in their lives and ours than we did as children. It isn’t fair to them to hold on to who they once were and not embrace who they become. After all, that is the whole purpose of raising them.
The hardest part now for me is trying to come to terms with my fear of failing them at some point along the way and seeing the results of what that could mean, but also finding with much relief and great pride that they had in fact listened to me and their father more often than not. Though they are not perfect and completely frustrate me at times, much of the time I find myself completely proud and surprised at just how wonderful they are. So, with that, the grief over losing them as small children and babies is replaced by tons of satisfaction, pride, gratefulness, curiosity and excitement about what’s in store for them.
One more thing to add regarding being present in the moment as a mother. As my kids get older I am finding that the moments I worry about forgetting or not cherishing enough are NOT the moments that matter to my children. It’s funny, because where I worry that I didn’t cherish enough or do enough when I ask them or talk to them about the past, I find the moments that I completely didn’t think I should remember are the ones that they do!
As parents, we’ve always tried to do special things with our kids, making memories and family traditions to show them just how much they mean to us and spend quality time together. But when you ask these older children about those times, you often hear that they don’t really remember much of it! And though when I first realized that, it sort of hurt me and made me sad, they told me about the moments they do remember that mean something. Those moments, surprisingly, are just the day today ins and outs of a life together, stuff none of us pay close attention to or make emotional mental/emotional notes about.
The things they hold in their memory bank and in their hearts as keys to who you are as their mother and father and why they love you are most often the things that no one would ever imagine mattered. And that is one of the things that I am finding I love about them getting older. We can talk about these things now and they give me a clear picture of who I was (am) as their mother and what life was(is) like in our home from a very different perspective. It’s all very fascinating and humbling and something I never really considered about parenting, especially parenting older children. It makes me wonder what kinds of things we will discuss about life when there are are adults. This stage of parenting is where the rubber meets the road and you get to find out just how well they can drive. And since I’m in the passenger seat still helping them learn to steer, I find that I have to pay close attention to the road myself and can’t really get distracted by the scenery that we are passing by. It’s tempting to look back over my shoulder, but I really need to be focusing on what’s ahead, so that’s what I do.
Thank you for saying that Mother’s Day can suck. I’m dreading it. I hate feeling forced to express saccharine love and affection to someone who has hurt me so deeply so many times. To everyone who feels genuinely loved and supported by their mothers, you are so lucky. Everyday I pray my children will feel that way about me.
I am a little late to this conversation, but I thought that I would add my “two cents”. Here’s what I think: I think that it is important to enjoy or rather be content with each stage of life that you pass through. The way to do that is to live the life that is authentic to who you are at that stage of your life, but to do that you have to know and understand who you are and what is important to you. From there, you will make choices that you don’t regret. I think it’s important to remember that raising children is another stage in life that you will pass through and while it is an important stage, it will pass like all of the other stages in life before it. As women, I think we fall prey to thinking that the “mother stage” is a kind of ending to who we are as a woman/individual because it can be (if we let it) an all consuming, sometimes overwhelming time. Regrets may come from not feeling truly connected to yourself and as a result, not truly connected to your life (including decisions made on how to raise your children). I think it’s important to put it in perspective and to maintain a connection to who you are as an individual. It will allow you to be content with that role while you play it and equally content when that role is no longer needed. The truth is, someday our children will no longer need us to raise them, that is the cycle of life; however, love and connection will remain.
This is so incredibly sweet! I never mind and I hope I never did mind the advice of “enjoy every moment” It’s really the most truthful statement that could ever be said about motherhood. They are only little for a while. And I love your mom’s last sentence. So positive and full of promise. After 23 years of NOT working, I just joined Serena & Lily and I’m having a blast.
As I read this and type a reply, I have a 40 pound, 3 year old boy sleeping in my lap.
Oh, the dreaded and impromptu 5:00 nap.
Part of me is future tripping what bedtime will look like and another part of me is breathing in big, deliberate whiffs of his sweaty nap head, making a permeate place for them in my memory.
Part of me knows that napping in my lap is a fleeting occurrence and I should savor each minute, while I am also concerned with frosting a cake for a party tomorrow and getting dinner started.
Balance!? It’s a tricky one.
This time my gut tells me to enjoy the moment…everything else will work itself out.
Thanks for sharing this. So much food for thought, but I’ll focus on one thought. I read this, read it again, and burst out crying (wow have I been holding that in… or maybe just needed to let it out today). My kids are 17 and 19 and I did stay home with them for about 12 years.. and I am super grateful that I was able to do that. I don’t regret going back to work, but I do ask myself all the time – was/am I there enough for my kids, did/am I doing a good enough job. Why??? Why do we moms do this to ourselves? I don’t have that answer. The part of the email about calling for kids to walk and everyone coming was were the tears came, because now, they most often don’t come- they are living their own busy lives. The crying doesn’t come from a selfish place – I’m happy and proud they have made lives for themselves.. but much like your mom I MISS THEM… already! I often feel like I’ve lost that time with them. Maybe it’s not because I didn’t get enough (so stop with the regret)- but because I just want more. I just have to keep reminding myself I’m here, I’m here , I’m here and when they come I’ll make sure to notice!